Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "God and mammon," Jan. 14, 2006

Speed trap

In a hurry? Not on one Swiss ski slope. Grindelwald, a Swiss Alpine ski resort, has enacted a 30 kph (19 mph) speed limit on one of its intermediate slopes. Resort officials say daredevil skiers who streak down the slopes had overrun the blue course. The speed limit is unenforceable, but Grindelwald hopes it will make the intermediate run safer for students and elderly skiers.

Strange brew

Oddly enough, the fecal matters. That's the lesson some enterprising Indonesians learned when they discovered they could sell a coffee bean made special by an unorthodox production process. The beans, called Kopi Luwak, are harvested from civet droppings that pile up on the grounds of local plantations. Indonesian civets, mammals similar to monkeys, often eat ripe coffee cherries. As the intact bean wends its way through the civet's intestines, it picks up unique tastes and aromas. At least that's what connoisseurs in Europe and North America (notably California) say when they pay top dollar for the boutique brew. The cost of a pound of Kopi Luwak: $175.

Third class

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One British air traveler may have finally learned his lesson-don't mess with the crew. The passenger, a 53-year-old vacation traveler, reportedly became enraged when a stewardess cut him off, refusing to serve him another alcoholic drink. But when the man became abusive to the crew of the Monarch Airlines flight, the captain decided to take action. He diverted the flight, landing on nearby Porto Santo island off the west coast of Africa. There, the captain kicked the man off the plane and into police custody, stranding him on the tiny Portuguese-administrated island.

Tracked down

Finding two German men accused of burglarizing 15 cars and two garden sheds would have been much more difficult in summer. Good thing for police that the December robberies occurred when a fresh snow had fallen on the town of Hoentrop. Officers followed tracks left by two men accused of the crime back to their home where they not only found the stolen loot, but also shoes and gloves left out to dry.

Animal lovers

Los Angeles authorities didn't think it was funny. They arrested two California men after the pair allegedly released a 5-foot alligator into a lake at a local park. With an alligator on the prowl, locals have been hesitant to allow children to play near Lake Machado. In a search of the suspects' homes, police found what could only be described as a dangerous, if unlikely, combination: three small alligators, four piranhas, three desert tortoises (and six eggs), a rattlesnake, and 10 pounds of marijuana.

Family outing

Perhaps it was Lewis "Scooter" Libby who outed former CIA operative Valerie Plame. Others finger presidential advisor Karl Rove in the leak investigation. But perhaps prosecutors should check out someone a bit closer to former ambassador and Bush critic Joe Wilson and his wife, Ms. Plame. Someone like the couple's 5-year-old son? "My daddy's famous; my mommy's a secret spy," the boy declared to reporters as the family tried to slip away on a vacation just before New Year's.

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